California and beyond!

Death Valley was so awesome I want to take a moment of silence to respect its awesomeness


…okay. Why was it awesome? Because it was remote, warm, eerily silent and completely dark when I arrived–plus the terrain was like nothing I had ever seen.  I couldn’t get phone reception or any radio stations within a good distance surrounding the valley. There was no wind. No houses (albeit there was a native tribe living just off the main road in a group of trailers Otherwise just RVs and travelers staying at one of the two “resorts” in the area.

Please click-to-enlarge the photos if you wish

Furnace Creek Ranch

I poached this RV encampment for the night

Don’t be fooled by the elaborate flora and fauna, it only existed around the resort area.

Death Valley is known, of course, for being the lowest point in North America.

Named Badwater because a surveyor mapping the area could not get his horse to drink the salty water.

Death Valley is at such low elevation because the white-capped mountains you see in the picture (above)  in the west are pushing away from the mountains behind the camera.

Here’s the opposite view, notice the sea level marker (white rectangle) about two-thirds up the cliff. And if you’re really interested in the geologic history: there you go.

Lucky me, while I was checking out the basin, there was a bike tour going on, century and double century rides around the valley.

Tour info:

Found this amusing tidbit on their website:


Death Valley got it’s name because it is a place were living things go, get dehydrated, and die. Death Valley has the driest climate on this planet. Most of the time there is practically no moisture in the air at all. This means every breath goes in dry and comes out wet. When you are sleeping in Death Valley your body processes about a pint of water an hour by breathing. This means at the end of 8 hours sleep you have consumed about 1 gallon of water. You must hydrate and replace your electrolytes even when you are not cycling. Therefore we suggest you bring a Camelbak!

This may be one of the only bike tours that has piqued my interest.

So after watching the roadies come by I took a little drive off the main path

then walked, and found this

and this (yes it’s natural)

and this (possibly not naturally formed as is)

Who knows how long this rock formation has been here, like I mentioned there’s no wind, so maybe an eternity already.

Artist’s Road, a 3 1/2 mile, 30 mph one-way road.

Random sand dune

On the way out of Death Valley towards the West Coast I became intimate with about a hundred miles of slooow mountain driving like this:

Slow because of steep grades and hairpin turns. Fun!

Thankfully I did not have to drive through these


Later that day I made it to Oakland, CA, by going all the way south around this mountain range, close to LA and back up the coast. Stayed in Oakland for more than a week with a good friend of mine, Nicole, who I used to messenger with in St. Paul before she got a good job in the Bay Area. Now she’s heading to UCLA in the fall to start a PhD program in animal behavior. Good for her!

Nicole’s neighbor’s Mad Max car (and Michi)

I also got to visit Bridget in S.F. who moved from Minneapolis last year.

And took a road ride up to Grizzly Peak in the Berkeley Hills. (San Francisco in the background)

And visited with my cousins and aunt and uncle in San Jose.


I don’t remember the name of this game, but resembled curling.

Great bar

and great people

Camp Tamarancho, Marin County, the same trail system that houses Repack Trail, aka the birthplace of mountain biking.

Nicole suggested I stop in Ashland, Oregon on the way toward Vancouver to mountain bike around Mount Ashland. Great idea, but unfortunately much of the 30 mile trail around the mountain was above the snow line, so I didn’t get to do the whole thing, but I did do about 2500  ft. of climbing which kicked my ass, before I had to turn back–still a 4 hour ride.

I read in a Mountain Flyer magazine ad (while I was in Ashland) that De Salvo Cycles were built in Ashland, so I found the place and checked it out. Mike, the builder, was an extremely nice guy, but shied away from the camera. Here’s one of his recent builds (also pictured on his website).

I was not aware that in Oregon it is illegal for someone to pump their own gas, but Anthony explained it to me in a very calm way.

I asked him if he had ever heard the Ween song, “Pumpin’ 4 the Man”, but sadly he had not. Mmmm, it’s a good one (explicit lyrics).

Well, this post almost brings you up to date to where I actually am at this moment (Idaho), hope you’re enjoying the ride.

P.S. Here’s a video I found


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